A roof in the Mexican district of Tacuba was the best clue to blow up a dream. Alejandro Escolá climbed onto the roof of his house with his cousins and brothers to watch the planes fly by and to imagine he was the pilot, a steel bird.
“The first time I saw a cockpit was when they took us to an airplane that they had turned into a restaurant. I remember being impressed with the blackboard and the instruments. I imagine it was a DC-6, but in my memory it was a huge airplane, ”recalls Alejandro Escolá, who is now looking at the sky from an airplane he is piloting for American Airlines.
Today the Mexican belongs to one of the world’s leading US airlines, which together with American Eagle offers an average of 6,700 daily flights to 350 destinations in 50 countries.
On April 7th, the Mexican pilot celebrated World Aviation Pilot Day, remembering the story that preceded his journey into the world of commercial aviation and the realization of a dream that began on a rooftop in Mexico.
Alejandro Escolá was born in Mexico City in 1959. The Tacuba neighborhood was the area where his childhood was housed with his parents and siblings.
“I grew up with tamales in my parents’ tamalería, who taught me from childhood what effort and sacrifice mean,” says Escolá, who took his steps towards a university cerrera but never forgot his dream of flying.
At the age of 18, the young Mexican began to research what he needed as a pilot. That is how he decided to go to Mexico City International Airport (AICM) to speak to pilots he encountered.
Aviation professionals recommended Alejandro study in the United States as he would find the best aviation schools in the neighboring country to the north.
However, a challenge lay ahead of us: Escola had to learn English in order to leave his home country.
“I went to the US embassy in Mexico at 4am to look for information and the requirements I needed to study. I spent the whole day filling out papers and forms to get a study visa, ”says the Mexican.
Embassy staff sent the English student to the Benjamin Franklin Library to look for information on aviation studies. This is how the admission process began at various universities.
“So I came to Tulsa University in Oklahoma. I continued to take English classes and after a year I started my aeronautics degree at the Spartan School of Aeronautics. Not only did I fly an airplane there for the first time, but I also received some of my licenses. My main training as a pilot was there, ”says Alejandro Escolá.
Image: American Airlines / Alejandro Escolá
“I made my dream come true”
In 1982 his 23-year-old Alejandro already had several flying licenses, but he lacked experience and flying hours. That would soon change for the path that family life would follow.
Escolá’s older sister moved to Puerto Rico because her husband was originally from that region. When he finished his studies in the United States, Alejandro decided to visit his family and shortly afterwards he decided to stay and live on the island.
“I raised my family in Puerto Rico and at the same time kept working to get to an airline,” says the Mexican pilot.
The Mexican received his instructor license in Puerto Rico and was able to collect flying lessons. “When I was able to get the ATP license, I was able to board an airline called Executive Air. She had CASA planes, only 19 passengers and no flight attendant. Then that airline became American Eagle, a subsidiary of American Airlines. I spent 23 years of my career there with the ATR aircraft in the Caribbean, ”he explains.
The opportunity didn’t seem to last long. One program offered American Eagle pilots an upgrade to American Airlines. The only requirement was to fly an EMB 145 aircraft for at least two years.
On September 11, 2001, the attack on the Twin Towers in New York and only three months after joining American Airlines, the aviation industry changed completely before the terrorist attacks. “I’ve seen my dream farther and farther away,” says Alejandro.
“It wasn’t until January 2011 that I had the opportunity to join American Airlines. It was a lot of work and many hours of study, but I made my dream come true, I flew the 737 plane until 2016 and this year I flew the 777 plane, where I have been for 3 years, ”he recalls.
Alejandro Escolá believes that the aviation industry has made great strides and that young people can access their dreams of flying.
“Sometimes the hard work and experience that it takes to take command of an airplane is not shared. You start with obtaining the private pilot license with approximately 40 hours, then with the instrument training, the commercial pilot license and the multi-engine training. It is recommended to get the instructor license to get the 1500 hours required, ”he says.
Today Alejandro Escolá, a native of the Tacuba district of Mexico City, is ready to help young people make their dreams come true. Today, check out the rooftops of other houses where other children may dream of occupying the cabin of their American Airlines plane.